I've loved blues music ever since I was a kid. My first CD (yes, I remember when CD's first came out. I was in 8th grade. I also remember my cassette album). It was a Muddy Waters acoustic album. Raw, mournful, Delta blues.
If you know me, you know that I started learning guitar about 6 months ago. Are there any kids who doesn't imagine themselves playing guitar? Rocking out in front of the crowd? Playing around the campfire while the other camp counselors look over longingly? At 47, I wondered if I was too old to start. Neuroscientists say that it gets harder to learn new things as you get older because your synapses don't fire as well. It's harder to build neural networks in your brain. It is hard - but not impossible.
Since then I've come a long way - longer than I thought I would. In a lifetime of cool hobbies, guitar is the most fun and the most consuming. There are only few things you can do that translate into pure joy - and music is one of them. Playing music with other people is like talking in a different language, with different words, and different skill levels. But you connect on a level that's hard to describe.
I don't have much natural talent. My fingers are stiff and my brain is not wired right. But, as anyone will tell you, I am a little OCD and I work hard. So I practice with purpose and ferocity. I watch lots of Youtube videos. I think about playing while I'm driving in the car and listen to tapes. It's good therapy for my mind to take it away from cases, deadlines, and problems.
Early on I decided that I would perform in front of other people. After all, it's not just playing that was on the bucket list - it was playing in front of other people. I figured that since I was accustomed to getting up in front of people that I would be nervous but I could deal with it. I told my playing buddy Mickey Weber that I would play an open mic that he hosted. As the concert date got closer though I became really, really nervous. But I stood up and performed. "Plastic Jesus" - my first public performance. It was bad. But it's been easier since then.
Last week I closed the loop by singing a Muddy Waters song, "Long Distance Call". First of many more to come. It was better. I'm getting better, even my voice, which has gone from truly awful to merely unpleasant.